President Biden announced on Tuesday that his administration will provide US residents with half a billion free rapid COVID-19 tests that can be ordered online and delivered to their homes as part of a strengthened plan to stave off the winter wave of infections caused by the rapidly evolving epidemic. the spread of the omicronic variant of the virus.
The president’s announcement came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the ultra-transmissible omicron quickly overtook the highly contagious delta variant that caused waves of outbreaks in the summer and fall, and now accounts for about three out of four cases. diseases in the USA.
Biden sought to calm a country weary of the pandemic and fearful of the possibility of new waves of infections, restrictions and regulations caused by the new option.
“We should all be concerned about the omicron, but not panic,” Biden said, adding that those vaccinated can celebrate the upcoming holidays in peace. “If you and those you are celebrating with are vaccinated, especially if you have had a booster shot, you should feel comfortable. You did the right thing. You must enjoy the holiday season. “
But the president’s plan has drawn criticism from medical experts. Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute for Translation and a professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, said Biden had “announced solid plans,” but they did not materialize.
“This is good, but it is far from what should have been announced in light of the uncontrolled spread of delta strains and now omicrons across the country,” Topol wrote in a follow-up post on Tuesday.
Biden was to announce an additional 1,000 military doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to be dispatched to overcrowded hospitals over the next two months, as well as six emergency response teams that will add 100 clinical staff and paramedics to the 300 already dispatched. They will be deployed in six hard-hit states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.
The plan also calls for an increase in hospital bed capacity and plans to increase the number of cases and the availability of ventilators.
Although the White House said there are already 20,000 free testing centers in the US and four times as many home tests as there were this summer, rapid tests will be distributed free of charge to Americans who want them to begin in January. The administration plans to create a website where those who wish to take a home test can order free home delivery.
In addition to purchasing tests, the administration will use the Defense Manufacturing Act to stimulate production.
The plan also includes increased efforts to promote vaccination and revaccination of the COVID-19 vaccine, including hundreds of federal vaccinators dispatched to 12 states, and efforts to help pharmacies get vaccines where they are needed to make more visits.
Poplar said the 500 million free rapid tests that will be available in January are “completely inadequate.”
“We need several billion of them,” Topol wrote, “and we have needed them for over a year to prevent spread.”
He added that the administration should change the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include booster shots and make them available four months after the second Pfizer or Moderna shot, instead of the CDC’s current six-month recommendation. And he called for an increase in the production of the antiviral drug Paklovid.
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, called for a shift in focus from cases to hospitalizations, as many omicron cases were mild and protection focused on those most vulnerable to the virus.
Gandhi called for greater caution in youth boosters, especially boys and young adults, who are more susceptible to the rare side effect of heart inflammation from vaccinations, and to recognize the protective immunity of those who have recovered from COVID-19. She, too, called for more access to Paklovid.